Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

“Gade nan mizè-a m tonbe: Vodou and Haiti’s Environmental Catastrophe”

“Carpentier’s despoiled earth is a crucial element in a meditation on Haitian history that has as its focal point the failure of the Revolution’s leaders to imagine a landscape without the plantation. As portrayed in the novel, Makandal, faith and the blessings of the lwas notwithstanding, dies leaving the Revolution in the hands of leaders incapable of redressing the natural balance that would have returned the land to the people and their gods.”

Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, “The Haitian Revolution in Interstices and Shadows: A Re-Reading of Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World

Photo courtesy of Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert.

In “Gade nan mizè-a m tonbe,” a plaintive Vodou song dedicated to the lwa Bwa Nan Bwa (Tree in the Woods spirit) , the singer asks the spirit to look at the misery into which he has fallen. Guided by this poignant song, the talk explores what the nation’s severe deforestation—and the loss of its sacred mapous —has meant for religious practices and beliefs in Haiti.

Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert is a Professor of Caribbean culture and literature in the Department of Hispanic Studies and Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Vassar College, where she holds the Randolph Distinguished Professor Chair. She is also a participating faculty member in the Programs in Latin American Studies and International Studies. She received a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Puerto Rico and M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in Comparative Literature from New York University. She has been at Vassar since 1991. Previously, she had been an Associate Professor of Caribbean Studies at Lehman College (CUNY). Paravisini-Gebert is the author of a number of books, among them Phyllis Shand Allfrey: A Caribbean Life (1996), Jamaica Kincaid: A Critical Companion (1999), Creole Religions of the Caribbean (with Margarite Fernández Olmos, 2003; 2nd ed. 2011), Literatures of the Caribbean (2008) and of the forthcoming biography of Cuban patriot José Martí ( José Martí: A Life ). She is at work on Glimpses of Hell , a study of the aftermath of the 1902 eruption of the Mont Pelée volcano of Martinique, and on Extinctions: The Ecological Cost of Colonization in the Caribbean . Paravisini-Gebert has co-edited a number of collections of essays, most notably Displacements and Transformations in Caribbean Cultures (2009), Women at Sea: Travel Writing and the Margins of Caribbean Discourse (2001), Healing Cultures: Art and Religion as Curative Practices in the Caribbean and Its Diaspora (2001) and Sacred Possessions: Vodou, Santería, Obeah, and the Caribbean (1997). Her critical editions of texts by Caribbean women writers include Phyllis Allfrey’s The Orchid House (1997) and It Falls into Place: The Short Stories of Phyllis Shand Allfrey (2004). Her articles and literary translations have appeared in Callaloo , the Journal of West Indian Literature , the Jean Rhys Review , the Journal of Caribbean Literature , Obsidian , NWIG , Research in African Literatures and the Revista Mexicana del Caribe , among others. She is the author of numerous book chapters.

Date: Monday, October 3, 2011

Time: 7PM

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The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
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Subways: 6 to 33rd Street; B, D, F, or M to 34th Street/Herald Square

Sponsors and Special Thanks:
This event is co-sponsored by the Caribbean Epistemologies Seminar, the PhD Program in French at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and the City College of New York.
We acknowledge major support from the City College of New York at the City University of New York (CCNY, CUNY). Funding was provided by the City SEEDS Award, with special thanks to the Offices of the President and Provost and President Lisa Staiano-Coico. We would also like to acknowledge support at CCNY from the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Center for Worker Education, the Department of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the M.A. in the Study of the Americas, and the Department of Media and Communication Arts.
Additional thanks go to the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, the Transnational and Transcolonial Caribbean Studies Research Group (TTCSRG), Herman Bennett, Peter Consenstein, Kelly Baker Josephs, Margarite Fernandez Olmos, and Kaiama L. Glover.